SMASH TV: 2008 Emmy Nominations

Thursday, July 17th, 2008 | SMASH TV with

SMASH TV: 2008 EMMY NOMINATIONS

The big story of this morning’s Emmy nominations, read by Kristin Chenoweth (“Pushing Daisies”) and Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”) and themselves nominees this year, was cable, cable, cable. HBO’s “John Adams” received 23 nominations, including Outstanding Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie, and lead acting nods for Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney. Other strong showings by “Mad Men” (AMC), Dexter (Showtime) and some HBO programs or movies have once again reminded us that there is rather good quality to be found beyond the traditional TV networks.

For the lead categories, the Emmys have it almost right. Outstanding Drama Series nominees this year are “Lost” (ABC), “Mad Men” (AMC), “Damages” (A&E), “Dexter” (Showtime), “Boston Legal” (ABC) and “House” (Fox). I personally think that “Boston Legal” has become uneven of late, even cartoonish, but the writing is crisp. This year, too, Candice Bergen is up for supporting actress as well. “Damages” is a slight surprise for a show that hasn’t even been renewed. It’s very dark and a tad overwrought.

I am more ticked that the Emmy voters chose to leave off “Friday Night Lights” from its previously-released Top 10 list from a few weeks back. “FNL” is simply an outstanding show, and piercingly real and relatable. The fact that people think it’s about football and that is has meager ratings means it doesn’t receive nearly as much attention than a show where Glenn Close gets to chew people out each week. Finally, the huge snub was that “The Wire” (HBO) didn’t get in once again. HBO has always had a show in this category since 1998.

Comedy series nods went to “The Office” (NBC), last year’s winner “30 Rock” (NBC), “Entourage (HBO), “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO) and “Two and a Half Men” (CBS). First up, “Two and a Half Men” is an inferior show, and has none of the mostly zippy absurdity of “The Office”. It’s a show about two loser Dads, a smirky kid and a sassy housekeeper amid tired storylines and aging actors. Why no “Pushing Daisies”, despite the short TV season? Where is “The New Adventures of the Old Christine”?

I can see why “Ugly Betty” didn’t make the cut, given its clumsy or confusing storylines this past season, but I don’t think “Entourage” had its best season either. While “The Office” was not as witty in its hour-long episodes this year, they did have a blockbuster of a finale. Then again it’s hard to dethrone the somewhat stylized “30 Rock”, whose ensemble cast makes it the champion that it is.

In the leading acting categories, for drama we have the following:

Lead Actor (Drama)

*James Spader (Boston Legal-ABC)

*Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad-AMC)

*Michael C. Hall (Dexter-Showtime)

*Hugh Laurie (House-Fox)

*Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment-HBO)

Lead Actress (Drama)

*Glenn Close (Damages-A&E)

*Sally Field (Brothers and Sisters-ABC)

*Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order SVU –NBC)

*Holly Hunter (Saving Grace –TNT)

*Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer –TNT)

Spader and Laurie have owned this category for the last few years now. The surprise, perhaps, is Cranston in what is a very brave, very out-there role in a relatively new show. He is a first timer in the drama category after a few nods for “Malcolm in the Middle”. Byrne is here for the plodding psychological “Treatment”, which is a chore to watch but he manages to somehow save it.

For the actresses, it’s almost an Oscar shootout, with two of them Best Actress winners there (Field, twice, and Hunter) and Close has been nominated several times too. Hargitay has won before. Field is fine and has won in this category too, and she is a popular actress among her peers, but Close, with a Golden Globe win earlier this year, has the showier role by far. The real crime is why Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton of “Friday Night Lights”, the most natural and realistic married couple on TV today, did not merit a nod.

In the comedy categories for leading actor and actress:

*Alec Baldwin (30 Rock –NBC)

*Steve Carell (The Office-NBC)

*Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies –ABC)

*Tony Shalhoub (Monk –USA)

*Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men –CBS)

*Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of the Old Christine –CBS)

*Tina Fey (30 Rock –NBC)

*Mary Louise Parker –Weeds –Showtime)

*America Ferrera (Ugly Betty –ABC)

*Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?-ABC)

Lee Pace is the surprise among the men. Shalhoub has won before when his show was tighter (why did they get rid of the first Sharona?) and better written, and well, Sheen is just an embarrassment. His slack-jawed, overgrown 30-something (yet he is older) has grown stale and his presence is made just a bit creepy with his real life sordid dramas with his ex-wife, thespian Denise Richards. But it’s clearly Alec Baldwin’s to win again. His drop-dead multi-character scene he did this year with Tracy Morgan, in which he invoked Redd Foxx flawlessly to help snap Tracy’s character out of a funk, was one for the ages.

For the ladies, the surprise here is probably Applegate, whose show was a winter replacement. Her mother on the show, the veteran and Emmy-friendly Jean Smart, was nominated as well. Ferrara is there only by default since she and Vanessa Williams (also a nominee in the supporting actress category) are the only vibrant roles in a show that once had both heart and depth. Look to see Tina Fey win here.

She may win more –she actually earned three nominations this morning –leading actress, writing for “30 Rock” and guest performance on “Saturday Night Live” –an appearance that was possibly the best episode in years (though that is not saying much). Oddly enough, her erstwhile ex co-star and friend, Amy Poehler, from that show got her first supporting actress nomination for a program that is not a sitcom. That’s a first. And if the story this morning that Poehler has been cast in the new spinoff of “The Office” for next winter, then you can see her do what Fey did: leave.

No big surprises in other categories really, and there are some new ones, including Reality Show host. Ryan Seacrest with his preening is not big news because he is simply the figurehead of the largest juggernaut on TV that’s out there. Yes, he grates but he brings in a lot of cash as well. How Heidi Klum can get nomination for the excellent “Project Runway” is a stretch, since her hosting consists of uttering canned, monotone lines and saying Auf wiedersehen to the departing designer. I actually think either Seacrest or Tom Bergeron (“Dancing with the Stars”) has a chance. Another cheesy show, yes, but he is a master of the quips.

The Emmys will be handed out on September 21.

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